Shiloh Panic! Life & Style Rehashes Fears About Shiloh’s Haircut, Pants, Dinosaur Toy

It’s been at least a year, I think, since the last time Life & Style indulged in a hot steaming bath of Shiloh Panic, a word Autostraddle invented to describe “society’s response to non gender-conforming children.” Although we try to stay away from celebrity gossip and really anything about children, we feel Shiloh Panic is a serious issue in our community as it perpetuates some of the most damaging ideas about gender.

For starters, it seems patently obvious that the only people ridiculing Brad Pitt’s daughter are the editorial staff of Life & Style. I fear for Shiloh, too, but it’s not because of her haircut — it’s because of Life & Style‘s obsession with her haircut. It’s all quite meta, really.

Furthermore, in a magical move typical of celebrity rags, the magazine kills two sexist tropes with one stone: Angelina’s unable to mother because working women with ex-girlfriends clearly cannot take care of children and Shiloh is doomed because she wears clothes from the boy’s section. Those crazy Jolie-Pitts!

On the Life & Style website, the following is revealed:

Angelina Jolie was beaming as she and three of her kids shopped at the Studio City Farmers Market in LA on Jan. 22, but fellow shoppers couldn’t help but notice daughter Shiloh‘s new shorter-than-ever haircut.

In fact, one onlooker even mistook the adorable little girl for one of the Jolie-Pitt boys. “It was very chaotic,” Lynda Stenhouse, who was at the market, tells Life & Style. “She rushed by my section, but I did notice her skinny white legs and the commotion of the boys.”

Now, in the new issue of Life & Style, sources reveal that while the proud parents encourage their little girl to be independent, Brad is concerned about the scrutiny to which Shiloh is being subjected.

“It would crush Brad if one of his kids was picked on,” says a friend of Angie’s. And there’s reason for the parents to be on edge over Shiloh, caution experts. “This is a culture where kids get picked on if they don’t look like other kids,” points out psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert. “Shiloh’s already different — being the daughter of superstars — and she may already feel ostracized because of that.”

And while Brad, like any dad, is going to worry, he also knows he can’t change his little girl. “I want [my kids] to explore that innocence as long as possible and find out what’s really interesting to them,” he confides. “I just don’t want to encumber them in any way.”

There’s plenty to dissect in there, though I find the idea that her “shorter-than-ever” haircut is used as a trademark of impending deviance immediately hilarious. When she had short hair, that was one thing, but now that she has SHORTER hair, she’s basically Rosie O’Donnell! What the fuck?

Anyhow, before I continue this rant, let’s take a little trip back in time to the first time this happened, which was in early March, 2010. In response to this cover…

…we asked “at what point does media panic regarding Shiloh’s Radical Androgynous Haircut cross over into Officially Offensive Territory?” and suggested that the cover was an example of either transphobia or awesome-phobia (the latter because Shiloh’s tomboy style is fan-fucking-tastic and we’re super jealous of her access to such rad sneakers). We pointed out that although the print magazine industry is in trouble, Life & Style isn’t — their circulation numbers continue growing, presently hovering at about 4.9 million readers. These are the magazines you see at the dentist, hair salon, and on the floor in your shared dorm bathroom under someone’s Caboodles. These headlines are what children see when they’re waiting in line at the grocery store with their parents. This kinda actually really does indeed matter.

Anyhow, back in March, even GLAAD came out against the magazine cover and the horrifying article within:

“Life & Style is way off the mark with this outrageous coverage. Perpetuating gender stereotypes and targeting children for ridicule about the way they dress is unacceptable, regardless of their parent’s celebrity status. Media has a responsibility to differentiate between credible authorities and politically motivated (and usually self-proclaimed) ‘experts’ like Focus on the Family’s Glenn Stanton, who is not an expert on developmental issues or gender identity.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality noted thatthe length of Shiloh’s hair or the clothes she wears are really matters for her and her parents to decide… what’s important here is that every child, including Shiloh, has the opportunity to express herself and explore her world in a way that is safe and nurturing for her.”

Life & Style, of course, wasn’t concerned:

Life & Style‘s cover story ‘Why Is Angelina Turning Shiloh Into a Boy?’ presents experts speaking from all viewpoints in the debate over Shiloh’s new look, which immediately ignited controversy all across the media. The feature provides our readers with a comprehensive look inside one of the biggest entertainment news stories right now.”

So unconcerned, in fact, that they chose to do it AGAIN in September 2010:

One way in which all these covers fail so monumentally is that they all draw illogical conclusions from the evidence presented to them — it seems far more natural to assume that Shiloh herself wants short hair, sneakers and dinosaurs than it is to think her mother is burning Shiloh’s dresses and strapping Shiloh to a chair to hack her locks away with gardening shears.

Another way (more blatant in the earlier covers than in this week’s) is a much more common mistake — the idea that “tomboy” behavior is a strong indicator of sexuality or gender identity. C.Lynn Carr’s 2007 study “Tomboyism or Lesbianism? Beyond Sex/Gender/Sexual Conflation,” found that the fact that “a large majority of women recalled wanting to be boys (sex) in order to do things that boys got to do (gender) may be testament to the relative powerlessness of children, who are often told how to act and what they can and cannot do by peers, parents, and educators.” Other studies have shown that between 51% and 67% of adult women report childhood tomboy behaviors, so it’s hardly even notable.

Not that we care if Shiloh is queer or trans and I think it’s highly inappropriate to even speculate at this point. Right now she’s just a little girl who likes to keep her hair short, and these covers reinforce the idea that non-gender-conforming children are playing with fire AND that there is something inherently wrong with being trans or queer. I mean they don’t have to say it directly, we know what they’re getting at.

US Weekly captioned this photo "Shiloh Jolie-Pitt's adorable tomboy look is back!" which is a lot more like it

These covers are presenting the idea that Shiloh’s style will get her bullied while actively bullying Shiloh. Apparently when presented as “concern,” bullying is completely acceptable, a brand of hypocrisy we constantly see employed by anti-gay-rights activists as well.

It seems that if Life & Style is so concerned about how Shiloh will get treated by her peers during some ambiguous yet-to-be-realized future in which Shiloh will suddenly be surrounded by an entirely new peer group, they should look at why the world is so hostile to anything “different” or “out-of-the-ordinary” rather than directing the world’s attention to something “different.” What if the “problem” the magazine was freaking out about wasn’t going from dolls to dinosaurs but being overweight or poor or, you know, GAY?

So nice one, Life & Style. I pray no self-loathing suicidal gay teenager gets his or her hands on this piece of shit because the message you’re declaring is extremely loud and incredibly clear: it’s not the bullies that need changing, it’s the bullied. And that’s just plain wrong.

You can contact the people who make this shitty magazine  if you so desire; the PR people for Life & Style are Lindsay Ferraro (twitter: @lindsay_ferraro, LFerraro@bauer-usa.com) and Sarah Drabick (sdrabick@bauer-usa.com) and the editor of Life & Style is Dan Wakeford (DWakeford@bauer-usa.com).


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riese

Marie Lyn Bernard, aka Riese, is an award-winning writer, blogger, journalist, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in the midwest, lost her mind in New York City and is currently making it work in California. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better, The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image and The Hazards of Being Female," "Dirty Girls," and "The Best American Erotica of 2007," magazines including Nylon, Marie Claire, GO, Curve, Interlude, and CollegeBound, and all over the web including nerve.com, Jezebel, Queerty, Emily Books and OurChart (RIP). She was the recapper for The L Word Online and host of Showtime’s Lezberado and her personal blog has earned many dubious honors including Best Personal Blog 2008. Riese has spoken about blogging, community-building, feminism, cyberculture and sexuality at places like BlogHer, Yale, New York University, The University of Chicago and The Museum of Sex. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Interlochen Arts Academy and The Olive Garden's week-long training intensive; she enjoys eating foods, having big ideas, reading books & talking to her stuffed dog, Tinkerbell. Also, she's Jewish. Follow her smokin’ hot adventures on twitter. Contact: riese[at]autostraddle.com

Riese has written 2895 articles for us.

125 Comments

  1. Also also, are they not freaking out about the long hair on the other kid (is that Maddox? I don’t know)?

    This whole thing makes me sick. I think you nailed it re: using “fears” as a way to bully. Spot-on.

  2. She is freaking adorable, and I love that her parents (I hesitate to use the word “allow,” so…) are cool with it. In the world that is not illuminated by the constant flash of gossip-worthy-shot-hungry paparazzi, LOTS of little girls go through a tomboy stage. Duh. Some last, some don’t, who gives a shit.

    Really, if my 3-7 year old life were to determine who I’d be as an adult… and I was, sadly, not a tomboy… yeah, the thought is kind of traumatic, so.

    Btw, Kelsey! I am having feelings re: you and Shiloh bearing some uncanny resemblance to one another. Yes, I am totally having flashbacks to mini-child-Kelsey. Seriously though. Maybe it’s the cheeks.

  3. As always, there is a relevant Andrea Gibson quotation for this situation:

    “I can guarantee a haircut will never tell you anything about someone’s gender, who they love, or how they f*ck”

    (In other words, I wish I’d been that cool as a kid.)

  4. “This is a culture where kids get picked on if they don’t look like other kids,” points out psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert.

    This must be the type of expert Life & Style are talking about. You know the ones using unregulated terms like “psychotherapist.”

  5. I was a little princess when I was Shiloh’s age. I quickly morphed more tomboyish as a teenager, and am now not very gender conforming at all. If we took what I started off as though, and assumed it was who I’d be as an adult? You’d be very wrong. Leave kids alone media jerks, don’t make it look acceptable to bully different people.

  6. One of the most disturbing things to me is that people pay $2.99 for this piece of shit magazine.

    There is irrefutable proof that short haircuts lead to lesbianism and it’s called NewTexan. I’d attach a pic if I had any clue how to do it. Short haircuts also lead to computer incompetence.

  7. “It would crush Brad if one of his kids was picked on,” is a funny quote to use as they are, perhaps, the only ones picking on her right now. I’m not a fan of the “You’re just jealous” argument, but Life& Style is soooo jealous of Shiloh’s hustle, you can tell.

  8. “I want [my kids] to explore that innocence as long as possible and find out what’s really interesting to them,” he confides. “I just don’t want to encumber them in any way.”

    Yeah, Brad seems totally panicked.

    • This also struck me as an interesting quote.

      “Now, in the new issue of Life & Style, sources reveal that while the proud parents encourage their little girl to be independent, Brad is concerned about the scrutiny to which Shiloh is being subjected.”

      Oh, you mean scrutiny like from magazines who call out her chosen hairstyle and clothing on their covers like there’s something wrong with it?

      • oh yeah, honestly it didn’t even occur to me that brad pitt may have actually spoken any of the words he is said to have spoken in this post. i always assume that every celebrity quote or anonymous celebrity source is made up.

  9. Life & Style embodies the predatory nature of a tabloid. They perpetuate outrageous, inaccurate, and socially offensive stereotypes. I really wonder if the offices of L&S aren’t just an aquarium full of Rita Skeeter types, brainstorming ways to make diversity seem unacceptable….
    Dislike! You look good, baby Shiloh! Don’t let anybody tell you differently.

  10. so, what is it called when you have like, shiloh opposite-from-panic?

    i really don’t care about brad and angelina at all, and i like celebrity gossip sometimes, but these shiloh stories make me LOVE them and their family. like behind the fame and glamour they are totally sane and kind, is my projection.

    also, shiloh has a really cool gender neutral name, in any case.

  11. When I was her way my dream was to be alicia silver stone in the movie clueless I also didn’t even think about sex or who I liked whether it be a boy or girl so there is no way that shiloh wearing awesome clothes is in any way an indicater of what her sexual preference will be. To have journalistic integrity first they have to be a journalist.

  12. This is ridiculous. When I was younger one of my best friends wore her hair short and wore her brothers’ clothes all the time. I wore too many hair ribbons and pushed the dress code with my shiny bright red Mary Janes. Guess which one of us ended up being gay? The one commenting on this lesbian website, obviously. Kids are kids. I was working in a preschool today and heard a 4 year old say that she couldn’t play with trucks because those are for boys. Last week in the same class a little boy got teased for playing in the homemaking center. It’s ridiculous how early we’re bombarding children with the idea that they can’t do what’s fun for them because of their gender. Good for Shiloh for being happy and doing what makes her feel comfortable and have fun and good for her parents for letting her.

  13. Those last two sentences in the article. YES.

    It’s always the bullied children who have to deal with consequences, get punished, or are told to change their behavior. Instead of moving the bullies out of a class with the bullied child, they’ll move the bullied kid. If a kid is picked on for doing something different from the norm, they will be encouraged to stop it and act like everyone else; the kids who pick on the child don’t even come into the equation.

    We need to stop punishing bullied kids for being themselves and start actually punishing the kids who bullied them.

  14. In my nerdy corner of the internet, we call that bullshit “I’m just worried that your deviant behaviour will cause people to treat you like a freak, you freak” talk concern-trolling. “I’m just worried that she’s SICK because she’s SO SKINNY, there must be something wrong!” “I’m just worried people will cal you a slut because you’re acting like a slut,you slut!” “I’m SO WORRIED that Shiloh will get bullied for being DIFFERENT, she SHOULDN’T DO THAT”=concern trolling.

  15. Kudos to Brad and Angelina for letting their children express themselves. Even if Shiloh DOES end up being transgender or queer in the future (oh, the horror…whatever will her parents do?), isn’t it better that she was supported throughout her life and didn’t feel like she had to suppress a part of herself? How does that reflect as “bad parenting”?

    I distinctly remember one girl from elementary girl who reminded me of Shiloh. She wore boys’ clothes, kept her hair short, and she even had an ambiguous name. She was a year below me, so I’m not entirely sure if she was ever picked on for the way she dressed. Anyways, I just Facebook’d her now and she’s even more feminine (and obviously more heterosexual) than I am! Childhood is such a transient time, and people go through a lot of change. If Shiloh ends up being a tomboy for the rest of her life, fine. If she doesn’t, maybe all this panic was for nothing. But she should fuck them all by being a happy, balanced person. Unfortunately, that goal is made all the more difficult by trashy tabloids scrutinizing her family 24/7…I just want to give her a hug and a cookie.

  16. While I don’t have the parenting expertise of a two dollar tabloid magazine, I do know that you can’t MAKE a child do anything at that age. My sister-in-law wanted a tomboy, but all her daughter wants is princesses and glitter (neither of which is any indication of whether she will turn out gay, straight or celibate living in a cave).
    Shiloh looks happy. Can’t we all just be happy for her and her parents?
    That, and Dinosaurs Rule!

  17. Dolls are awful. Who wouldn’t rather play with a dinosaur toy? I had a collection of plastic dinosaurs growing up, and that is most likely why I am a lesbian.
    I am so glad Life and Style is shedding insight on how we become queer mutants. It is an evolution that begins with rejecting toys that are “assigned” to little girls, is worsened by the desire to wear comfortable shorts, and eventually results in a well-rounded person who doesn’t comfortably fit into society’s bi-gender system.
    We better start publicly humiliating parents who encourage their child’s self-expression, before it morphs into a situation where everyone is tolerant of all types of people. That would be very un-American.

  18. When I was seven and my sister was 5 she told me that she wanted to be a Care Bear. You know how they have that ridiculous little tuft of hair at the top of their heads? I was going to cut my sister’s hair like that because, you know, she wanted to be a Care Bear so I was going to help her (because I’m a good sister)!

    My mom had a different opinion and I got into hella trouble but the moral of the story is that kids are like little crazy people. Wanting short hair cuts is pretty normal compared to the stuff some kids want.

  19. I’m more concerned about the effects of Shiloh’s having Brad and Angelina as parents (and them growing up in a media circus) than how her hair is cut. It will be interesting to see how her style changes as she gets older (and when she’s older) and to see how the press (including this magazine) will react to that.

    Also, it’s a HAIRCUT. ON A CHILD. Get over yourselves and move on with your life.

  20. all I have to say to this is that I hope brad and angelina contine to support her in expressing herself. Mum always tried to femme me up and I hated it. it meant fights and cried and spending money on clothes never to be worn and getting told off when you dirty said clothes.

  21. Life & Style, OK Magazine, and National Enquirer are the kings of BS media and supposed “concerns” over things that aren’t their business or very offensive. Such as this case. This is a 4-5 year old girl. It’s disgusting to judge her and basically bully her for being a little tomboyish. I see those magazine on the stands all the time and I either end up laughing at them or shaking my head.

  22. My hair was way shorter then hers and they were always dyed blue with non permanent color. First of all no one ever made fun of me (they were all:”oh, I so want my hair blue like yours”) and now I have a ridicolous amount of dresses and high heels. Plus I think it has to be considered even the influence of her older brothers! And honestly even if she turns out to be a queer, who cares?

  23. I love that you point out the fact that if the writers of Life and Style magazine thought being queer or trans was perfectly fine and good and natural, THIS ARTICLE WOULDN’T EXIST. Underneath all of the shit that this article is, there’s a bunch of bigotry. It’s this feeling like “if you’re queer or trans then okay, we’ll make the best of it, but DEAR GOD if we can stop it from happening, we will!”

  24. Angelina and Brad should be congratulated for encouraging their daughter to be who she wants. I had hair down past my waist for my whole childhood and absolutely itched to cut it off. I did so when I was 11 (had a very short boyish style) and my mum was in tears. Why couldn’t she see that it was the real me without all that hair and ribbons?

    It’s hard being mistaken for a guy but it’s harder to walk around being something you’re not. Hopefully some parents around the world will see these articles and realise that they should let their children be themselves.

  25. something about all of this reminds me of the time when my little three- or four-year-old cousin at the time was looking at pictures of all of us grandkids on the fridge and pointed out everyone by name, and when she got to a picture of her at one year she said “and that’s me when i was a little boy”. she thought that everyone is born a little boy.

  26. I was surprised more wasn’t said about her age. Seeing as I know nothing about the ages of the Jolie Pitt children, I googled it. She will turn 6 in May. Does anyone else work with kids this age?!?!?! THEY ARE FULL OF ATTITUDE! If a 5-6 year old girl really wanted short hair she would find a way to do it whether or not her parents approved. Girls especially are very stubborn at this age and while I love them it can make being a nurse quite difficult. Sorry, almost started ranting about work.

  27. Asides from the obvious gender policing and inherent bigotry that the magazine portrays here, there’s something else as well: Call me crazy, but short hair and comfy clothes are insanely more comfortable when you’re 5 years old and you just want to play.*

    * Which still applies when you’re 26, by the way.

  28. i mean my mom kept my hair short as a youngin’ mostly because it’s way easier to deal with on a little kid. for practicality’s sake short hair on little girls just makes more sense…also dinosaur toys are just way less creepy than baby dolls. so there’s that.

  29. To be honest, if I were a kid who picked on other kids, I would be more likely to pick up on the word play involved with the name Shilo Pitt. (swap the Sh and the P, and see if you are nice enough to not laugh because she is an adorable little girl.)

    Bottom line, this is automatically the coolest kid there has ever been, and she’s going to be fine whatever.

  30. I’m looking at the magazine cover again and man, why is it always Angelina who has to be the bad guy? Like, I feel like if Brad Pitt is actually concerned about her parenting and instead of talking to her about it, he’s talking about her behind her back to people who are going to leak that shit to the tabloids, then he’s the one in the wrong, you know? And it reminds me of when he left Jennifer Aniston and the headlines were all GASP THAT HARLOT ANGELINA STOLE HIM AWAAAAAY and it was so ridiculous, because I’m pretty sure he’s a grown-ass human who makes his own decisions. It’s all just so insulting and subtly misogynistic and it makes me want to Hulk smash all over the place.

    • because tabloids love love love love love criticizing mothering skills of these women, it’s one of the mega anti-feminist things that these magazines do. it’s sort of retro and i think it’s based in the idea that anyone artsy, bohemian, feminist or most importantly — EMPLOYED — is clearly unable to raise children. i mean i think 50% of their content is probably shaming the mother of somebody.

  31. the way i see it, if i can have a mullet from the age of 5 til like 13 and wear the tragic shit that i see in my childhood photos and still not get picked on, i’m pretty sure shiloh motherfucking jolie-pitt will be fine.

  32. My sister-in-law is about to have a baby, but she is calling the baby “dinosaur” until it’s born because she doesn’t want anyone to gender the baby ahead of time. (For the record, it’s a girl, and I assume she was comfortable telling us that because we’re the lesbian aunt and auntuncle…woohoo!).

    I felt this was relevant because of dinosaurs and gendering and all.

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  34. Maria D here here! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I get that tabloids make their bread and butter making magazines that trounce the rich and famous for people who seek solace about their own pathetic lives in other, more fortunate or glamorous, people’s misery. But when you start targeting kids, famous parents or not, that’s just f*cking bottom feeding.

    and i don’t know about you guys but if i were worrying about children’s toys, i would be worrying about those dolls that look like cute caricatures of hookers, right?!

  35. I don’t know why this dumb thing bothers me as much as it does but it seems I’m not alone b/c 106 comments!

    But I’m just looking at the mag cover again and that dumb thing where it says “from dolls to dinosaurs” – why does it have to be either/or? I am looking at my kid’s toys right now and there is a baby doll and a stuffed dinosaur peacefully coexisting on the same shelf. I must be screwing her up for life b/c how is she going to know what gender she is if I don’t give her the right toys?

  36. That’s a hideous sadistic haircut for girl OR a boy. Angelina is a freak and her kids are dressed like they’re homeless. The whole family always looks like they need a good bath. Meanwhile, Knox looks like a girl and all the brothers have longer hair than Shilloh.
    Poor kids.

  37. You’d think it would have occurred to the ‘journalist’ who wrote this (and their editor) that if Angelina Jolie was so dead-set on masculinising her daughter, *there would be no pics* of Shiloh with longer hair or in remotely girly clothes when she was younger.

    I loathe pink and dressed my daughter in gender-neutral clothes when she was a baby and toddler, but I always said when she was old enough to make her opinions known, if she wanted pink, she could have it. She did go through a pink phase, and she had pink, because she asked for it. Now she prefers less feminine clothes, and so she has those, while her younger sister is relentlessly pink and girly.

    I expect the same is true of the Jolie-Pitts: they dressed Shiloh according to their preference when she was younger, and according to her preference once she was old enough to make her opinion known. It makes a whole lot more sense than the alternative.

  38. The short haircut is one thing on Shiloh. Any parent can decide the length of hair on their child. But come on people. The clothes she is wearing are boys and the combination of hair and clothes makes her look like a boy. Angelina you are wrong for doing this. She is a little girl and should be dressed like a little girl. I agree with Brad who is concerned about his daughter’s appearance. Later on, if the child wants to dress like a boy when she is old enough to make those type of decisions on her own, then dress like a boy.

  39. my cousin and I (both girls) preferred short hair and pants when we were young….and both are working professionals with husbands and families of their own

    letting Shi be herself is the right approach from Angie and Brad to build a strong sense of self esteem…her sexual preferences are her business when she grows up

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  41. Shiloh’s name is John and he wants to be referred to with male pronouns and with male words. Stop calling him their “daughter” and “she”/”her”. He’s their son. :\

    Angelina Jolie’s doing the right thing by supporting John and letting him express himself in the way he wants to. Whether he’s really transgender or not, I don’t know, but I know he wants to be called John and referred to with male pronouns, so everyone should respect his wishes even though he’s a child.

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